One Hundred Thirty-Eight Points and Bestseller Lists

Have you, like me, been intrigued by the story of Jack Taylor, the Grinnell College basketball player that scored one hundred thirty-eight points in one game? It was so striking that it even caught the attention of some NBA players . . . Kobe Bryant being one.

However, upon looking closer, one realizes that perhaps the performance wasn’t so stellar after all. The team supported his effort to complete this task by letting him rest during defense and setting him up for most of the shots. Evidently, the coach of this team has a “system” designed to get a few of his players record-breaking scoring runs. If you read the link, please forgive the two swear words in the first paragraph, but it was the most detailed analysis of this particular basketball game and why Jack Taylor prehaps broke the record.

Does a coordinated team effort take away Jack’s achievement or not? Hmm….

Jack’s effort (and that of his teammates to get him recognized in that fashion) reminded me of a current marketing strategy that some authors are using to get their titles on the bestseller lists and that basically is composed of narrowing your tribe’s purchases to one week so that the spike in sales causes it to rise on said lists. I have known several authors to employ this strategy–usually coupled with giving away a lot of free stuff. The most notable would be Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing.

My question for you fellow wordsmith journeyers: does this make a true bestseller?

First, what makes a novel a bestseller? In my research, these things were mentioned.
1. Good Book
2. Favorable Press (Oprah helps . . . just a little.)
3. Word of Mouth (The purpose of your tribe.)
4. The Subject Matter
5. The Title
6. Marketing Campaign
7. Power of the Internet

But, as this article (though long, it is well worth the read) also outlines, a bestseller happens basically two ways:
1. Selling many copies in a week
2. Selling steadily over months and years though maybe not ending up on any lists

So I wonder, will people begin to scoff at claims of bestseller status from an author employing this strategy? What if their book hits a bestseller list for one week but rapidly falls off and is never seen there again? Or, is it merely good business sense? Here is one blog post that outlines a similar strategy using the Kindle Direct Publishing system and offering the book for free.

My guess is, we’ll begin to take a look at how long the book was on the list. Being briefly on an Amazon top 100 list may become meaningless. Some already say that rising on an Amazon list (particularly the 100 free list) does not a bestseller make even if the author claims that status.

If the buying habits of your tribe can be manipulated strictly for the purpose of tightening sales into a one week period . . . is the novel really a bestseller? And let me claim here and now that I’m not saying I may never try this.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What do you think of this marketing strategy? Does it make a novel a true bestseller?

What is “Good Enough”?

just got back from the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Dallas. This is an annual event and is the largest gathering of Christian fiction writers anywhere. Close to seven hundred (that’s right– a reverse 007!) writers attended. I know because my good friend’s name ends with a Zw, and she was 688/688.


While there, I attended a talk given by a MAJOR Christian publisher about a relatively large survey they did on Christian fiction readers. Don’t quote me, but the survey included over 200,000 participants and focus groups were conducted in three large cities. Just to say a lot of people participated–not just me and Grandpa Joe.

Since many of you may be salivating over some of those results, I’ll share a few here. The largest categories selling are: #1 Amish (shouldn’t be a surprise, just look at any CBD catalog and they are leading by 5-10 pages), #2 Mystery/Suspense/Thriller (my eyes glazed over with excitement right here!) ,and #3 Historical Romance. The romance categories were split among three genres: Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, and Romantic Suspense so if all three were lumped together, the romance category may have had a higher overall percentage.

They asked “what would you like to see more of in Christian Fiction?” and the intriguing answer there was gritty is okay. Not everything needs to be wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end. Dangling questions are okay.

What surprised me was when one of the presenters said, “Should we move away from highly curated content to just good enough content?”

To be honest that floored me–in a bad way.

What is the purpose of a traditional publishing house? Some say they are gatekeepers. I like to view them more as museum curators. What is the benefit of having a museum curator? It’s so that my seven-year-old’s finger art isn’t next to Rembrandt. That when you pay your money, in the form of a museum ticket or as a book on the shelf, you know someone somewhere who gets exposed to LOTS of art and books picked the very best ones. And you’ll be getting your money’s worth.

Are there some self-published authors who are putting out high quality novels? Yes, absolutely. Are they the majority? No. If we are honest, they are not.

Can you buy a horrible, traditionally published novel? Yes, but it should be edited to near perfection. That’s the other part you pay for.

Proof, my debut medical thriller, went through four rounds of edits. Are there typos–yes. But I can guarantee there are fewer in the whole novel than in the first chapter of a few self-published novels I’ve started to read.

What disturbs me is when a curator/publisher says perhaps we don’t need as many editing runs. Perhaps “good enough” is okay for the masses. They won’t notice the difference anyway. Those are my words–not hers.

But isn’t that the implication? There are so many “so-so” things out there that we really don’t need to be consumed with quality anymore?

To me the quality of the editing is the one thing differentiating traditional and self-published books in many cases. So, if that’s gone, the strive to put the best product out there–what will be the difference then?

Will traditional publishers actually place the last nail in their own coffin if they adopt such an attitude?

What do you think? If you’re published, do you think there are too many editing rounds? Would fewer be better? How should traditional publishers continue to offer value in ways other than editing?

Guest Blogging and Guest Hosting

Marketing Your Debut Novel Part IV

I’ve been doing a series on marketing your debut novel. You can find Part I, Part II and Part III here by clicking the links.

Briefly, Part I focused on growing your tribe/social media, Part II was about the comparable books section of your book proposal, and Part III was about the audience section of the book proposal. These all focused on one particular area of the writer’s life–the pre-contract phase.

Let’s depart that phase and begin concentrating on the next phase– the contract submission phase. I’m going to define this part of the writer’s life as the time you or your agent are submitting your book proposal but haven’t yet signed a contract.

You may think…there’s marketing to be done during this phase? Yes, absolutely. For me, this phase lasted from December 2009 to April 2011–almost 18 months! Definitely too much time to be sitting idle.

One thing you can be doing during this phase is hosting other authors/experts on your blog and guest blogging on others’ blogs that support your brand. This will lend to your credibility and should also help internet search engines highlight sites with your name. The more sites, the more opportunities for people to find you and the more exposure you have to people who may not have discovered you yet.

My primary blog, Redwood’s Medical Edge, deals with writing medically authentic fiction. This supports my overall suspense brand because I discuss ways to injure, maim, and kill fictional characters.

To help grow my blog and support my brand (therefore exposing Proof to more potential buyers), I began looking for opportunities to guest blog and looked for other authors to host.

For example, I wrote pieces for other blogs that dealt with strategies an author could use for medical research, common medical mistakes in fiction writing, and even offered real medical advice to parents over at Christian Mama’s Guide. Erin is a non-fiction author who published a guide on having a baby and although Erin’s blog is not a suspense blog at all, my guest blogging allowed me an opportunity to reach possible new readers and lent her blog credibility by having an expert post. A true win/win situation.

I also hosted authors like Richard Mabry, CJ Lyons, and Candace Calvert. I hoped to drive their readers, whose fiction is similar to mine, to my blog to learn more about me and possibly become future buyers of my fiction.

Though this isn’t specific to guest blogging/hosting, I did follow many on Twitter who mentioned they were authors. I sent one direct message to them telling them about my blog. From that, I’ve gotten several additional authors to guest blog for me. In return for guest blogging, I highlight them, their books, and their internet presence.

Some people argue that my strategy, primarily focusing on authors as my initial tribe, will not boost sales in the end. We’ll have to see if what they say is true but I know I’m an author and an avid book fan and have bought many more books because I’ve built relationships with these authors and grown to love them as friends.

Next post in this series, we’ll go over how to be a generous blog host and good guest blogger.

How about you? What are some strategies you’ve used to gain readership by hosting guests on your blog and/or guest blogging other places?

Who is My Reader?

Marketing Your Debut Novel Part III

I’ve been doing a series on marketing your debut novel. You can find Part I and Part II by clicking the links.

Briefly, Part I focused on growing your tribe/social media and Part II was about the comparable books section of your book proposal.

In this installment, I’m going to continue on the pre-contract phase of the writer’s life by focusing on another troublesome aspect of the book proposal–the AUDIENCE SECTION. (Cue your choice of scary music.) This section goes before the overall marketing plan that you will design to help the publisher get the word out about your book.

A publisher wants to see that you know who your potential reader is. Are you savvy enough to figure it out? This audience section will help your publisher know how to market your book and how to best reach the reader you’ve identified.

For instance, a novice book proposal writer would say something like: “Proof will be loved by ALL people ages 18-102.”

Really? Everyone? That’s not very discerning. You may not understand your potential readers very well and this will be troubling for the publisher.

EVERYONE is not going to like your book. That’s just fact. And you will waste time trying to market the book to everyone. Did you know the largest group of Christian fiction buyers is women, mostly between the ages of 30-50? In fact, this morsel of truth may translate to the general fiction market as well which are those books published by the ABA. You can watch this fascinating interview with CJ Lyons and Lee Child as they discuss that women purchase most books.

So, when you’re working on this section of your book proposal, think hard about who will be attracted to buying your book. Are they men or women? College educated? What age are they? What do they watch on TV? How popular are those TV shows?

What follows in quotes is my audience section in the book proposal for Proof. For those of you who are not aware, Proof is a medical thriller/police procedural. Equal parts of both. Some romance but not 50/50 romance like a true romantic suspense novel should be.

“Those likely to buy Proof are career men and women age 25-45 who are fans of medical/police procedural television shows and novels. ER ran for 15 seasons and during its first ten years was consistently a top ten show. House, currently in its seventh season, averages 10 million viewers. The DNA mystery in Proof will attract people who watch CSI, as well. CSI has three television shows in its franchise.

Suspense novels with a heavy medical edge do well in fiction markets. Mainstream writers like Robin Cook, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Palmer, and Kathy Reichs consistently hit the New York Times bestseller list. Furthermore, Lethal Harvest by Cutrer and Glahn was a Christy Award finalist. Candace Calvert’s Critical Care was a 2010 Carol Award Finalist. Proof will appeal to these readers.”

What’s been interesting in hindsight is that Library Journal suggested my novel to those who were fans of Robin Cook. Several reviews have specifically mentioned the show CSI as well as Law and Order SVU and Grey’s Anatomy. I carefully marketed the book to those I thought it would appeal to, and ultimately they are indeed the ones who’ve loved the book.

What do you think? Have you tried to write an audience section of a book proposal? How easy or hard was it? What advice helped you write this section?

What Food Network Star Taught Me About Author Branding

Marketing your Debut Novel: Part Two

Last month, I started this series on how to market your debut novel. You can find Part One here. We’re going to stick with the same time period of the writer’s life–the pre-contract phase.

In brief, I discussed those things an author should be doing pre-contract phase, which is identifying and building your brand through social media. You are working to build a well-defined tribe. (You are reading Seth’s book by now, right?)

The issue of branding became very apparent to me while watching The Next Food Network Star. Yes, hand straight up in the air, I like reality TV. If you’re not familiar with the series, earnest chefs attempt to win their own show on Food Network by doing next to impossible cooking tasks for a panel of feisty food judges they may work for someday.

The judges want to know what their POV is. This season one contestant, Malcolm, was often heard saying, “I don’t need a POV. I just need to cook great food. That will speak for itself.”

I’d like to indulge a few different words. “I don’t need a brand. I just need to write a great novel! The words will speak for themselves.”

The problem is where do said judges, or in our world, publishers, place you?

If you’re seeking publication and you’ve not been published before (particularly in fiction) you are going to have to 1. finish your novel and 2. write a book proposal.

A book proposal is essentially a marketing tool for your book. It’s the sales plan. It’s the blueprint of how your tribe (again, reading it?!?) will purchase your product.

One section of the book proposal is the dreaded “comparison” section. It can be called other things. Market analysis. Comparable books. In this section, you list books that are like yours (and what sets yours apart in a nice, professional way.) The purpose of this section is to help a publisher identify what type of audience you’re trying to reach. Is there consistency amongst the authors you picked and what type of novels they write? This helps a publisher know that you know yourself pretty well. You have brand awareness and can plug into the group of people who also like those authors.

But say I have little brand awareness. My novel is a Steampunk, alien invasion set during Roman times with a population of Amish quilters–and if a book like this makes it big, you heard it here first! My website looks like a Steampunk machine tossed out a Roman gladiator who just tousled with an alien on the prairie–and throw in a couple of Amish looking bonnets for good measure since those books sell really well.

In your comparable books section, you list these books: Proof by Jordyn Redwood (a medical thriller), The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club by Wanda Brunstetter (Amish gives a clue there), Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman (this is Christian non-fiction), and Francine Rivers’s A Voice in the Wind (which is historical fiction).

A publisher is going to be scratching their collective head. How can one fiction book possibly be placed by each of these novels? They’re so different. Not even in the same section.

But, you say, my book will satisfy all of those readers. A publisher shakes their head. No, it won’t. The books above represent very diverse readers. I’ve personally read two: my own and Not a Fan. Not to say the other two by Wanda and Francine are not excellent novels– but they don’t appeal to me and what I like to read.

Don’t be Malcolm. Discover your brand. BE the BRAND (think Miss Congeniality– BE the CROWN!)

So, you may ask, what happened to Malcolm? Voted off midway through the season. Great chef but “we don’t know who he is.” They didn’t know how to brand him.

What about you? How did you like writing your book proposal? How easy or hard was it to write the comparable books section?

Marketing Your Debut Novel: Part One

After I got the call from my agent, Greg Johnson, that a publisher offered a contract, two thoughts crossed my mind. Strangely, they were not, “WOW, I’m going to be famous!” or “Yes! I can quit my day job.” Rather, I thought, “Oh no, he’s going to expect me to be able to write another book!” and “How on earth am I going to market it?”

After that, I considered going back to college for a marketing degree. Nursing school didn’t include classes on author branding.

Panic set in.

Now, it’s a few days after June 1 and my novel, Proof, has found its way into the big, scary world. So, what did I do to market my novel? What areas did I concentrate on? I’m going to break this down into phases. This post: Phase One.

Before your publishing contract (possibly even before agent submission):

Work on writing a great book first and foremost.


Branding. Click the link for a post I did on branding basics. Some authors don’t yet know what genre they want to commit to and therefore can’t build a strong brand. What I will say to that is maybe you’re not ready to publish. Think of athletes–a minuscule few excel at more than one sport. When they play professionally, it’s one sport. In the beginning, it’s paramount to have a singular focus. Once you’re super-famous like Ted Dekker, that may be the time to branch into another genre. But even then, you’ll likely be encouraged to go with a pen name.

Social Media: There’s nothing like making a group of introverts try to interact with one another. I hear some ask, what’s the point of all this social media? Marketing, at its most basic, it is about building relationships. You’re going to need help from your friends to do that. You’ll need influencers, endorsers, guest bloggers, and places to guest blog. Social media sites are among the best places to find the people who can help you. But, honest interaction should always come first. It’s easy to spot those who are trolling for selfish reasons.

Your social media involvement should start, if possible, years before your book is published. Long before book proposal submission to publishers. I started in October 2010 with my blog and Facebook. After that, Twitter. Then Goodreads. Lately, I’ve done Pinterest.

It takes time to feel comfortable with social media, so concentrate on one at a time until you feel like you have the hang of it. You can’t learn them all at once!

For me, Twitter is the most labor intensive. Then Facebook. Goodreads and Pinterest seem to grow on their own without a big time investment.

I haven’t found Linked In or Google + very helpful, so I don’t focus any efforts there.

WHY social media? An agent and eventual publisher are going to want to see that you’ve built relationships with people who may, in turn, buy your book. Say a publisher is on the fence between two books. Book A author has 20,000 Twitter followers, 5000 Facebook followers, and actively blogs versus Book B author who has 50 Twitter followers, 200 Facebook friends, and no active blog site. Which one would you pick to risk your money on?

Blogging: Many authors question whether it’s worth their time. Why blog? What an agent or publisher wants to see is that readers are interested in your content. Your content should support your brand. I’m a nurse and a suspense novelist so my blog is about medical accuracy in fiction. The blog gives me an additional venue for talking about killing, injuring, and maiming fictional people. Great for a suspense author. It’s not going to do me any good to blog about cooking unless my novel is about cooking. Everything you do should support your brand.

Blogging basics. Great content first. A consistent schedule–whatever you can commit to. I blog four times/week. Some only blog once/month. Content should be short–somewhere between 500-1000 words. We encourage our authors at the Water Cooler to keep it fewer than 750 words.

Register on Klout: Here’s a post I did when I first started Klout. Klout can be used as a tool to look at all these things to see if your efforts are growing your influence, but not to recover deleted text messages.


Well, actually, an agent and a publisher. I don’t know many agent types who are saying, “Your Klout score needs to be this before I’ll sign you.” However, one publisher wanted to know my Klout score before they would give me free books to blog about. If I had a Klout score higher than 30, I was eligible for more books.

What about you? What marketing efforts do you think are important during the pre-contract phase?

What Does Easter Mean to You?

Here it is– midnight MST. I’ve survived twelve+ hours in the ER on a Friday night, full moon (it must be!), holiday weekend. For those of you familiar with emergency departments you know I listed those out because it meant we got our tushes kicked a little bit. Not enough staff. Too many sick kids.

I am tired. I get home…

And. There. Is. No. Post.

Which means there is no happy new post for you… our trusted friends, our fabulous readers. I’m thinking– no one is going to notice. It’s Easter! Anne’s post was amazing and can hang out all weekend. This will be unedited and full of typos (can I wake Sarah up to have her proofread?)

But then, something stops me from shirking my responsibility. I start thinking I really should step in and write something– substitute for the person who was supposed to post. And I really don’t want to right at this moment in time. My warm bed is sweetly calling my name.

However, the thought of substitution comes to the forefront. Now, I’m not one to clearly hear God’s calling. I would possibly dare say I’m tone-deaf. I’ve prayed for God’s Will to be left as a gold note card on my pillow for me in the morning. For me, God’s voice is more like a subtle whisper in a hurricane that I have a hard time tuning in. What I have learned though is sometimes these instances (like no blog post) are orchestrated by God to create opportunities for other things, and I’m wondering if this forgotten post was left open for me to write to bring the thought of subbing for someone else to mind.

This is what Easter means to me. Christ as substitution. His death as a covering for my sin so that if I believe in what He did as He hung on a cross, nails through his hands and feet, a crown of thorns on his head– one of the most painful deaths a human can suffer– I can have the glory of heaven.

Grace. Mercy. Innocence hung for me…

So, maybe my foray into writing my novel, which led me to an appointment with Greg Johnson, which led him to take me on as a client, which (for some strange reason!) led him to ask me to help run this blog was meant to culminate in this one moment in time where the Easter weekend post was empty (like the tomb was in a few short days) so I could write about the thought of substitution and what it meant for me…

And what it means for you…

May you have a blessed Easter.


The Tale of Two Book Covers

One of the most exciting things you’ll get to do as a published author is decide on your book cover. For a long time, your novel may have just been black words on a white page, but a book cover is the pretty packaging that is used to attract readers and get them to purchase your novel. Several thoughts on marketing/branding become important during this process.

Most publishers will allow you to provide input into the book cover. Before my cover was designed, they asked me for some directions. This is what I provided for instructions.

1. Different from what is normally seen in CBA fiction. Who doesn’t want to stand out?
2. Dark imagery/suspenseful/intriguing: dark colors, creepy feel, etc…
3. Not overtly medical. Above all else– this was most important to me. This may be confusing to some as it is a medical thriller (of which I am very proud!), but the reason behind that direction was that I’m not sure I will always write medical thrillers, and I wanted to reach the wider suspense/thriller audience.

Here were the two choices I had:

When I got these from the marketing director I was stunned! I loved both for different reasons.

Here were some of my thoughts.

I loved the cover with the menacing killer, and he actually looked just like the villain in my own mind. How could they possibly have done that? I’m a risk taker, and that cover definitely appealed to that side of my personality. My first thought was: Even Ted Dekker hasn’t done anything this scary. Can I pull it off? Is it wise to have something this risky as a debut cover?

Why was it risky? Well, this is where some marketing comes into play. The largest segment of book buyers (even for suspense) is women. Is a woman going to pick up the book with the evil, scary dude on the front? If she does, would she keep it in her hands or plop it right back on the shelf. Was it safer– maybe smarter would be the better term– to use a cover that will accomplish what I wanted but still attract those who are most likely to buy the novel?

I was fortunate because I got these draft covers just before I left for the ACFW conference last September and was able to get the opinion of lots of people on which one they liked the most.

There was one clear winner.

Another interesting thing that happened was a couple of people commented on the size of my name on the front cover. I got the sense that maybe they thought I might be “too big for my britches” as they say. I found that sentiment a little fascinating as it certainly wasn’t something I had insisted on but wondered if there was an unspoken code of name size that once you sold a certain volume of books– then your name could be in large print.

Which cover do you think I picked and why? Do you think an author needs to “earn” their name being in large print?

Click here for the answer and leave a comment here and at Redwood’s Medical Edge. I’ll be drawing a winner from the comments section of both blogs for a copy of Proof!  Drawing will be Saturday at midnight, April 7th. Winner announced at Redwood’s Medical Edge April 8th.

Cover Art by the amazing Nick Richardson.

When Mom and Dad Split Up

Getting an early morning call from your agent can lead to adrenaline induced heart arrhythmias. Working in the ER, I’m trained to assume and prepare for the worst case scenario. That’s the nurse in me. But, what do you do when you get a cryptic message from your agent?

Me—assume the worst. What could he be calling about? Is it an issue with my publisher? Is he dropping me? What could it possibly be?

Not only am I an ER nurse but a suspense author—so I may lean toward the dramatic.

Quick dial back.

The news was not anything I expected. An agent was leaving the fold as Greg mentioned in late December as part of the agency news. What did that mean? The reason for the call was to discuss what would happen to this agency blog when several contributors were leaving.

The WordServe Water Cooler started in the middle of last year as an agency blog with the focus of helping authors a little further back on their writing journey navigate the publishing road. Since it is an agency blog, professionally, it needed to be maintained as such. Those authors choosing to go with their agent to the other agency would not be able to participate.

Problem was—we had become a family along the way.

Initially, when the blog was set up, a Facebook group was started as a communication tool to facilitate signing up for posts. What it morphed into was a true community of authors supporting, encouraging, and praying for one another’s triumphs and difficulties.

Personally, I didn’t want to lose touch with those who were leaving. It felt like my family was splitting up. Greg had tasked me and another author to take over administrating the blog. We began a conversation with the current overseers about how to handle the change.

How this multi-author blogging group handled this agency change has been humbling and inspiring and I believe has some lessons that can be learned by all—both on a personal and professional level.

Here are a few I’d like to highlight.

1. Do not gossip. On our group Facebook page, there would have been ample opportunity to gossip about the situation. Who was leaving? Why were they leaving? What do you think of such and such agency? Agent? I can honestly say this did not happen. Everyone was professional and supportive and prayed over those having to make tough decisions and over those who were most affected by the change.

2. Your decision is personal. Whether or not you decide to stay with a particular agent/agency is a private matter—not a group discussion. Only a few trusted people should be privy to the reasons. This is handling it professionally. Airing grievances publicly, particularly on social media, will come back to bite you. The world of publishing is small, and people will remember how you acted.

3. Create a neutral meeting ground. To meet the need of maintaining those relationships that developed via the Facebook group—a new private group was created where those who left could still interact with those that stayed. Of course, I can’t tell you the name. It’s a secret.

4. Be open to new opportunities. Change is part of life. The choice you make is how you handle it. You may be presented with opportunities to grow and stretch. Don’t be shy about stepping up and learning new things. This month, you’ll see several new talented authors contributing to this blog—including superstar agents Greg Johnson and Barbara Scott. You’ll learn more about marketing and social media from publicity expert Ingrid Schneider. Ever wonder what it’s like to intern at a literary agency? Check out Sarah Freese’s posts.

Question for you—what’s been the biggest change related to publishing/writing you’ve had to deal with?

Your Name is Your Brand

I’ve been delving a lot into marketing books and I’ve garnered a few nuggets that I thought would be helpful to those who are beginning to develop their on-line presence—and maybe change the minds of a few who are already there.

Your name is your brand.

In writing, there’s a lot of talk about what your brand is. Put simply, your brand is a promise to your readers. If you write historical novels then write an edgy supernatural thriller—your historical followers are busy scratching their heads and your new readers are doing the same when they look at your previously published books. Writers who have deviated a lot from their promise usually suffer in sales.

But more important than that is how will your readers find you. When they search Twitter and Facebook for your profile, how easy are you making it for them? If your author name is Joe Smith but your Twitter handle is @hottexasdude3000—how simple are you making it for your potential buyers to discover you and your product. And yes, I did search for that moniker and it seems to be wide open for those who would like to claim it.

Let’s focus on Twitter. Your handle should not be:

1. Something funny and quirky. Though this may garner a lot of followers, it’s probably doing little to build your brand. Especially if you don’t write quirky or funny—not that you can’t be that way personally. Name first. Image second. Your presence should have a consistent feel among your blog, web site, etc…

2. A character in your novel or book title. What happens when your publishing house hates that name? They require you to change it. Now, it’s time spent explaining to all your happy followers that Derek Storm (just love Castle!) is dead. Oh, that’s another reason. You as the author decide to kill the main character. Unless you are in a position to have complete control over your books, this is risky.

3. Your blog. Again, your blog should support your brand. Not be the brand. When people Google search, they’re going to look for your name first. They may discover your fine blog through your name search but the opposite may not be true. My name gets far more Google hits than my blog name. This is what you want to shoot for.

What if you’ve done one of these fatal errors? Relax. It can be changed. Why postpone the inevitable? Work to make these changes now. Make your name your brand. Work to have a consistent feel among your social media sites. There’s always room for improvement. Even though my Twitter and Facebook profiles are my name, I need to improve the feel so it speaks suspense.

How about you? Is your name your brand? If not, why not? Do you think you should change it?